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Idiot regulators, ‘even stupider’ DGCA: Boeing staff

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MUMBAI: Employees of the U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing, in their internal communications regarding the design and certification of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, had ridiculed airline officials and regulators in several countries, including India’s regulatory aviation, the Directorate-General for Civil Aviation (DGCA), two years ago. According to reports released Friday, after calling regulators in other countries “morons,” a Boeing employee went so far as to say that India’s DGCA “is apparently even more stupid.”

The revelations came after Boeing sent the documents – more than 100 pages of internal communication from Boeing pilots and engineers on email and instant messaging – to the U.S. House transportation committee that has by polling the design and certification of Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft. The aircraft was involved in two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019 that claimed 326 lives.

Responding to a TOI consultation on statements made against DGCA, Boeing said: “These communications do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and are completely unacceptable. We regret the content of these communications, and apologize to DGCA, SpiceJet [which flies Boeing aircraft], and the flying audience for them.” Boeing added that it had “made significant changes as a company to improve our safety processes, organizations and culture.” The company said the language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing’s values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. “This will ultimately include disciplinary action or other staff actions, once the necessary reviews are completed,” the statement added.

DGCA chief Arun Kumar said he was aware of feedback from Boeing employees. “They had done it in 2018,” he said.

Boeing had equipped its 737 MAX aircraft with software that overrides pilots to push the aircraft’s nose down when it correctly or erroneously detects that the nose is released dangerously high. But the company had been deliberately silent about this software and the fatal role it could play until the first accident occurred.

Internal communications released this week revealed how Boeing employees convinced airline officials and regulators that there was no need for training in software-related simulators. In several messages, Boeing employees insulted FAA officials who certified the plane. In one of the exchanges, an employee says Boeing’s presentation to the FAA on the Boeing 737 MAX was so complicated that for agency officials “it was like dogs watching television.” In another message, sent in February 2018, an employee wrote: “Could you put your family in a TRAINed aircraft MAX simulator? I wouldn’t.

Both crash investigations, Lion Air in October 2018 and later Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019, focused on the controversial software and its malfunctions that caused the aircraft’s nose to detach, leading to accidents. A month after the Lion Air crash, Boeing issued a safety bulletin to airline pilots that gave information on how to handle software malfunction.

In reporting on this bulletin, TOI, in an article on November 14, 2018, wrote about the need for additional simulator training, the only way to ensure that pilots flying the Boeing 737 MAX can competently handle features of the software. Two days ago, Boeing finally said they would recommend additional simulator training for Boeing 737 MAX pilots.

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide 10 months ago. The Boeing 737 currently in operation worldwide, even in India where SpiceJet flies it, is the previous version, the “Boeing 737 NG” model, which is not equipped with malfunctioning software.

Speaking about mockery messages sent internally by Boeing employees, Captain Amit Singh, a senior aviation professional, said: “In the case of the Boeing 737 MAX, the Indian regulator and those from other countries accepted design and certification awarded by the U.S. FAA, the home regulator. That was the norm. Regulators and airline officials believed and trusted what Boeing said. “In certain activities, the FAA has granted Boeing the power to act on its behalf to carry out self-certification. The Boeing-FAA relationship was based on respect, trust,” he added.

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